The Death of the 92 Club

Posted by on Sep 9, 2013 in Uncategorized | 8 Comments
The Death of the 92 Club

I was surprised to learn that the fabled 92 Club – the movement that recognises those hardy souls who have attended a match at all the Football League grounds – dates back only to the late seventies – ironically perhaps in that the accession of Wimbledon and Wigan Athletic to the competition will have immediately thrown things into confusion.

The original proposal was for this feat to be recognised by the award of a tie – with League administrator Alan Hardaker backing the plan as well as a range of the red tops. Despite the new arrivals, it was a time of greater certainty, with the old boys’ network of the re-election process generally assisting the most determined supporters – so even Hartlepool United, with 14 repeat applications over a 60 year period was a safe ground to visit.

Self-imposed ground rules exist of course – some would have it that going out of one’s way, groundhopper-style, to tick a stadium off the list is not in the spirit while others would argue further and suggest that one should only count matches in which the club one supports is involved – a Preston North End supporting acquaintance is a representative of the paramilitary wing of The 92 Club in this respect.

Additional questions that have proved tricky to clear up have included the validity of FA Cup fixtures (personally, I’m not sure my trip to Aldershot to see Maidenhead United a couple of seasons ago properly counts) and whether a friendly (exhibit A: AFC Wimbledon 0 Reading 7) constitutes a kosher visit.

But these arcane doctrinal debates have in recent times been blown asunder by a series of wholesale schisms – and despite the presence of the admirable Doing the 92 website, heretical currents are now so widespread that the whole concept is perhaps irreparably damaged.

The most obvious problem came with the end of re-election and automatic relegation from the Football League. Take last May for instance – anybody who had the pleasure of a visit to Barnet’s Underhill or Aldershot Town’s Recreation Ground will have suddenly found their tally reduced to 90 – and that’s assuming that they managed the trek to Fleetwood Town’s Highbury Stadium in the preceding 9 months (as my fellow blogger Lloyd did in fact manage to do).

Then there are the myriad ground changes – Plough Lane, Highbury (no, not that one – a more obscure ground this), Leeds Road, Gay Meadow – the list is endless. Does a trip to Newport County’s Somerton Park count given that it is now a housing estate? Could purchasing a bag of peas from the supermarket that once obscured half of the away end at Bolton’s Burnden Park number as a visit of sorts?

Significant changes to a stadium’s aspect also cause confusion. Obvious cases include Dean Court in Boscombe where the pitch was rotated 90 degrees, but a time travelling visitor to Molineux or Stamford Bridge would also be most disorientated by what faces him today – in the latter case, one encounters a superb, steep sided arena with the fans hard fast to the action while in the 1970s, it was a windswept bowl memorable for the fearsome Shed and a muddy area where you could park and watch without leaving your disabled car.

Indeed, what are the implications of the arrival of the Premier League? Is it now a seventy two – should we disdain those who have extended to us nothing but their lofty hauteur and make it a more manageable challenge? That it’s £52 to attend a run of the mill fixture at the Bridge is also a deterrent of course.

But while those who have taken in a competitive fixture at both Roker Park and the Stadium of Light can perhaps breathe easily that they have all bases covered, the stickiest fly in the ointment is the existence of Milton Keynes Dons Football Club.

With a hardy band of fundamentalists still refusing to set foot across the portals of the Doubletree Hotel in Bletchley (including myself), The 92 is now forever under threat from a relabeling as The 91 – and Coventry’s recent defection to Northampton has only added to the uncertainty – ‘Doing the 92’ themselves back the boycott of Sky Blues’ fans and does a trip to Sixfields to watch the west midlanders truly constitute a notch on the groundhopping bedpost?

So we are presented with a Sisyphean task – as soon as we approach the top of the hill with our boulder, an attendant appears from nowhere, probably wearing one of those fluorescent tabard jackets and shakes his head slowly – ‘you never made it to York Street, guv’.

There is little option, therefore, than to embrace the positives of such an ever changing, multi-faceted pursuit – one that is almost postmodern in its ever shifting criteria, how it can satisfy most notions of achievement and where the tyranny of an undisputed measure of success has been taken away.

So we can relax in the pleasure of boasting about oddities. Those who saw Bournemouth during their fleeting spell at Dorchester’s Jewson Stadium or Bradford City at Odsal can point out that the 92 is much more than four score digits and twelve. We’re now also free to remember fondly visits to Sealand Road, Sincil Bank and the Abbey Stadium and such is the game of musical chairs at the top of the Blue Square Premier, who is to say that the latter two at least are not likely to be reinstated at some point?

One can also expend less time worrying about expensive transport links, spend the occasional Saturday in Ikea and participate with more gusto in events such as Non League Day – hell, the sartorial habits of the likes of Roman Abramovich and Tony Blair make the sporting of a tie less optional these days – so the prize for attainment of The 92 now holds less allure.

Rugby doesn’t count mind – so if you’ve only seen Hunslet at Elland Road, be off with you.

Rob Langham
Rob Langham (pen name: Lanterne Rouge) is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 47 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Football Attic, The Inside Left, When Saturday Comes, In Bed with Maradona, Futbolgrad and The Blizzard as well as being nominated for the Football Supporters' Federation Blogger of the Year Award in 2013.

8 Comments

  1. putajumperon
    September 9, 2013

    I never considered the re-election/relegation issue an problem, I was always going to get to the destination. one way or another.
    Having reached the high 70s (mainly with Watford), I wanted to go the distance but, the real bone of contention is/was the advent of mkd. Because of them I will never pick up the 92 baton again. I wouldn’t even attend again in which they are playing regardless of where it is played, nor give a penny to their survival (gate receipts for FA Cup matches are split between clubs).

    So (for now) you can keep your 92 club; I’m a hardy bandy fundamentalist.

    Reply
  2. Jo
    September 9, 2013

    Let me just say that a tie is a pretty pants badge of honour – I mean, it’s bad enough for guys, given the demise in popularity of said item of clothing, but most of us girls haven’t worn a tie since primary school. Bring in 92 club hairbands, that’s what I say!

    Reply
  3. Keith
    September 10, 2013

    Even if the 92 clubs never changed, completing the challenge using matches in which the team you support is participating in makes this a sizable, if not a potentially impossible task in a lifetime. I use the Preston North End supporting acquaintance and my club (Arsenal) for example. PNE have not been in the top flight since the early 60’s – Arsenal never out of it for nearly 100 years, apart from the occasional cup game (the legitimacy of which is also in doubt apparently) this league fixture hasn’t occurred in over 50 years, this can’t be the only such case where teams just simply haven’t met in the league for a long time, if at all.

    Based on Arsenal’s consistency in the top flight, it could also be argued that even the most ardent 92 club participant is at a severe disadvantage being a fan of the club (insert jokes here) as opposed to a supporter who’s team yo-yo’s up and down the leagues or has recently seen their club in free fall. Supporters of Bradford and more recently Portsmouth can thank their clubs gross mismanagement for providing such a wonderful opportunity to join the 92 club, in the latter case, perhaps in record time.
    Based on Arsenal’s consistency in the top flight, it could also be argued that even the most ardent 92 club participant is at a severe disadvantage being a fan of the club (insert jokes here). If any one were to embark on this challenge without affiliation to a club, Bradford would have been a good choice in recent years, as would Portsmouth.

    Reply
  4. Norven Munki
    September 30, 2013

    I think those ‘traditionalists’ who refer to the demise of the “old-style 92” are in fact just relics of a bygone era when things just didn’t change very much. If, instead, you embrace the modern dynamic state of the game (and life!), then you will almost always have somewhere new waiting to be discovered!

    As a Wigan fan, I have benefited from our rise through the divisions and been able to edge ever-closer to the 92 figure.
    But I have also supplemented that with occasional matches as a disinterested spectator, making trips to venues ‘just to be there’. I think that is perfectly legit and still in the spirit of the “92 quest”, as it is the venues that are the key here not the teams.

    So, if you can say truly that you HAVE watched a game in any competition at ALL the venues in current use (ie the present 91) across Levels 1-4, then in my head you HAVE achieved the quest. As new venues appear, for whatever reason, you just add them to your ‘passport’ and can always keep putting the 92 Club tie back in the wardrobe until you feel you have re-earned it again!

    Reply
  5. Peter Etchells
    July 3, 2014

    Either do the ninety two or don’t.
    Like gambling, the pleasure is to play!
    Two manc fingers to you!

    Reply
  6. Peter
    October 23, 2015

    For me the joys of doing the 92 are the changes and challenges along the way. Ups and downs from the football league can help my total or hinder it, if it’s the latter I get a new ground of two to visit so i’m happy either way!

    Reply
  7. Another set of half-baked proposals from the Football League | The Two Unfortunates
    May 20, 2016

    […] see us undertaking away trips to Bournemouth reserves in a few short years? Is the whole concept of ‘The 92 Club’ out the window – will Converse serve an injunction to ban usage of the phrase ‘The 100 […]

    Reply
  8. Simon
    August 8, 2016

    I got there once – even having to redo Layer road because in between my first and 92nd league ground the miserable beggars went out the league and came back in again.

    My 92nd ground was The Dell and made me immensely proud.

    I’ve now given up as I have no desire to trek off to, for example Scunthorpe Uniteds impending third home ground in my footballing life time or for that matter go again to Whadden Road because the mischievous lot had a year in the conference.

    I most certainly wont be going to revisit the likes of Arsenal, Man City, West Ham having run through glass once to get tickets for the original grounds.

    RIP 92 club. It was great in its concept.

    Reply

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